FEBRUARY 2007

On Nov 20, 1986, Pope John Paul II became the first pope ever to visit Singapore. The following are speeches related to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of his pastoral visit celebrated in 2006:

Pope John Paul II's message to the Archdiocese of Singapore

Pope John Paul II's speech to the Priests of Singapore and Malaysia

In 2006, the Holy See and Singapore celebrated the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations with each other. The following are messages written for the event:

Vatican Secretary of State's message to Singapore PM (Mar 31, 2006)

Singapore PM's message to Vatican Secretary of State (Apr 19, 2006)

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino's message (Apr 2, 2006)

Singapore Archbishop's message

On Jun 20, 2006, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino representing Pope Benedict XVI visited Singapore to commemorate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See. These are the speeches that he made:

Speech to laity (Jun 20, 2006)

Speech to Priests & Religious (Jun 21, 2006)

Homily - Solemn Mass at Cathedral (Jun 21, 2006)

Public Lecture (Jun 22, 2006)

Guest commentary by Father Shay Cullen

People power can save the environment; speaking out does work; we just have to do more of it to save the planet and ourselves, writes Father Shay Cullen from the Philippines.

HARDLY A DAY passes without some new dire warning of the disastrous impact of man-made global warming. Climate change is upon us as we witness huge ice shelves of the Arctic and Antarctica breaking up. Rare and wonderful species are threatened with extinction and low-lying coastlines around the world will soon be flooded and uninhabitable. Campaigns to save the environment are growing.

In Subic Bay fisher folks are trying to close illegal fish pens that are polluting the waters, damaging the corals and the beaches and disrupting the livelihood of hundreds. Speaking out for justice is more important than ever as fish and animals are threatened worldwide. Polar bears are on the list of endangered species, while hundreds of species are going extinct, and climate change and environmental damage is causing it.

The scientific evidence that we humans are heating up the planet by the non-stop burning of fossil fuels is undeniable. Heavy industries pollute the environment with billowing smoke and belching gases that create a seal around the planet and prevents the escape of heat into space. We have turned the planet into a greenhouse, temperatures continue rising causing heat waves, forest fires, droughts, desertification, violent storms, rising sea levels, freezing winters, blistering summers, flash floods and melting ice caps. We are facing a catastrophe.

Political will, a change in our lifestyle and a change in corporate behaviour is necessary to reverse this process. Oil corporations that drill and spill must be held accountable, mining companies that dig and damage have to be challenged to change their wasteful ways. All of us have to adopt new habits and conserve energy and power. Turning off unused electronic equipment can save millions of gallons of fuel. We can drive less, walk more, recycle and reuse, go organic and buy fair traded goods. We can make a more just, cleaner, protected environment if we have the moral and political will to do so.

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We can reduce asthma and lung disease, toxic poisoning, food contamination and water pollution by caring more about people than profit. Global warming is driven more by greed than need.

Recently, Filipinos began campaigning against a proposed 300-megawatt coal fired power plant to be built on the beautiful and scenic Redondo Peninsula on Subic Bay. Coal burning power plants are the most polluting and damaging of all.

There is already a surplus of power generation in the Subic Bay area. In 1996 a new power line from the national grid provided even more power. A congressional hearing found evidence of corruption. The line was unnecessary, over designed and overpriced. It was still erected, and a corrupt nobody got elected to high office; industry helps elect its own. The proposed coal power plant is just a trade of electrical power for political power.

Electricity and gas prices have greatly increased. That slows investment, causes poverty, and increases forest destruction. The poor use more charcoal for cooking now and more trees are lost. After 60 years of indiscriminate logging by the rich, almost 70 percent of the Philippines' forests, the lungs of the earth, are gone.

Toxic fumes from the burning charcoal in the shacks of the poor cause them extensive lung damage and asthma. By providing low cost, smokeless charcoal made from waste coconut husks, we (Preda Foundation) are trying to provide an alternative and we plant 1,000 trees a year. Change is possible on a small and large scale if we act together for the common good.

In Zambales, a Philippines indigenous group of Aeta protested the start of an open pit mine and had it stopped. But their leader was later assassinated by a death squad. In the Amazon rainforest, 800 Achuar, an indigenous people, led by their chief Alfonso Hualinga Sandy and his wife Ana, banded together and surrounded the Peruvian oil drilling complex of Pluspetrol in a peaceful protest a few months ago.

They demanded an end to 36 years of oil spills and environmental destruction. Waving their ceremonial spears they closed the roads, airport and river port and halted production for two weeks. Corporate earnings plunged, government revenue stopped and suddenly these forgotten throwaway people were in the headlines and getting total government attention. Soon most of their demands were met, it was an unexpected but resounding success.

So peaceful protesters take heart, people power can save the environment, speaking out does work, we just have to do more of it to save the planet and ourselves.

(Father Shay Cullen is from the Preda Foundation Inc, which was a Noble Prize nominee for 2001 and 2003.)

By Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE - Newly-weds and couples who are married for less than 10 years now have access to a programme that addresses the challenges they face. The Couple-Empowerment Program (CEP) by the Family Life Society (FLS) was launched last year at Church of St. Mary of the Angels after three years of planning.

On Jan 7, the first batch of 38 couples graduated from the programme, which was conducted by Father David Garcia, Dr Bernard and Ying Thio from Couples for Christ, and a core team of couple facilitators.

Topics included present day issues such as: the need for unity and intimacy; how to maintain a work-life balance; enjoying a harmonious relationship with in-laws; fulfilling couple sexuality; and church teaching on procreation and parenting. The sessions combined teachings of the magisterium, insights from marital psychology, psychiatry and life skills to build healthy couple relationships.

Laura Tan, a participant at CEP, had "chanced upon" the CEP poster at the baptism of a friend's baby. Her initial reaction to CEP was a recognition that "here was a programme that dealt with some of the issues that had started to surface in our marriage, especially after our baby's birth".

Laura had found herself facing challenges in her marriage and family life that she had never considered before - the anxieties of being first-time parents and caring for a newborn, her struggles to balance work and family, and the juggling of various expectations of her family that was taking its toll on her marriage. "Having recently revisited the notes from our Engaged Encounter and Marriage Preparation Course, I knew instantly that CEP was focusing on areas that were not really covered in these pre-marriage courses," she said.

CEP revealed the importance of guidance and support during the early years of marriage when marriages are more prone to break down due to the "myriad pressures and adjustments required", Laura said. "These are years when couples are not only struggling to accept each other's differences in personality, family background, values and attitudes but are also learning to cope with completely new responsibilities like managing the household and finances, parenting and raising children, caring for aged parents, establishing careers and so on," she added.

Likewise, Bernard and Julie Phua, another participating couple, having been married for almost 10 years, realized through CEP that "every marriage has its own unique struggles, however harmonious a couple may appear". "This is not news, but hearing the personal sharings made us more aware that we married couples are all travellers on the same journey - the journey to bring our spouse and children to God's kingdom," they added.

At CEP, they discovered that complicated philosophical issues like happiness and contraception were clarified with elegance and clarity by Father David Garcia, "one of those rare people who can throw much needed light on difficult moral questions".

"We parents spend a lot of time, effort and money to provide enrichment programmes for our children while sometimes we forget to care for ourselves," they said. "We're really glad to have put building our marriage as a priority and attending CEP these past few months."

The next CEP will be held at Church of St. Mary of the Angels in June. Couples who wish to participate can contact Victor Ong at 9105 9921, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.freewebs.com/cep_singapore.

By Joyce Gan

Courage, an organization that has been praised by Pope John Paul II, endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family and encouraged by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, is what the Singapore archdiocese needs to provide pastoral care to persons with a homosexual inclination and their families, say several Singaporean Catholics.

"COURAGE IS DOING the work of God," were the late Pope John Paul II's words to describe Courage, an apostolate that ministers to people with same-sex attraction and their loved ones.

The ministry began in 1980 when the late Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York, troubled by the lack of a proper outreach by the church to those with same-sex attraction, encouraged Father John Harvey, who had extensive ministry experience in this field, to New York to address this concern. A spiritual support system was thus initiated, subsequently named Courage, to assist men and women with same-sex attraction to live chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love.

With the endorsement of the Holy See, Courage now has more than 110 Chapters and contact people worldwide, over 1,500 persons participating in its ListServs, and hundreds of persons a week receiving assistance from the main office and website. It has become a mainstream Catholic apostolate helping thousands of men and women find peace through fellowship, prayer, and the sacraments.

The Courage Central Office operates through the financial support of the Archdiocese of New York as well as contributions and volunteer work from Courage members and other individuals and organizations committed to advancing its efforts. Individual chapters throughout the world are self-supporting and exist with the permission of their diocesan bishop.

In helping individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the church's teachings, especially in the area of chastity, Courage extends the church's invitation to a life of peace and grace in chaste living.

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Andrew Kong, Senior Executive from Family Life Society (FLS) who gives seminars on homosexuality, remembers Father Harvey's visit to Singapore in October 2004.

The FLS team did a survey with those attending Father Harvey's seminar on homosexuality and discovered the need for such a ministry here, he recalls. The team then worked to set up a Courage Chapter in Singapore, with Father David Garcia, OP as the priest for the ministry. However, the plans did not materialize.

Mr Kong feels strongly that such a ministry would "definitely" help Catholics with same-sex attraction. "There are many of them in our midst who are struggling to live chaste lives … we should not close our eyes or bury our heads in the sand but recognize their presence," he says. "Why are we not doing anything about it?"

"If there is Courage here, it is a great sign of recognition that these people have special needs and need support groups" like those available to addiction problems or bereavement needs, he adds. "Through Courage, we can offer them the sacraments and minister to them, reassuring them they are still welcome in the fold."

Canossian Sister Christine Santhou, shares Mr Kong's enthusiasm for the positive impact Courage will have on the community here. A few friends of hers have already been working with friends with same-sex attraction "but they have no real place to go to", she says. "Maybe it is providential that Father Renckens' article was written. It brings awareness of this issue and we should handle this constructively as a church," she encourages. "It is not too big to be handled, nor is it something to be tended to by some people only … we should all do it together."

"I think it'll be great [to bring Courage here] and I just hope this will be taken seriously so we can bring some hope to persons with same-sex attraction," she adds.

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Encourage, a ministry within Courage, has also been formed to meet the need for a support network for Catholic families who are confronted with their loved ones' homosexuality.

Encourage might meet with more support from persons with same-sex attraction, like Missy* observes, for the reason that "if others are like me, then we don't want to hurt our families or make them feel embarrassed". "When parents don't understand this same-sex attraction, they tend to think they have not brought their kids up well," Missy says.

"And the child with same-sex attraction, on the other hand, through the unacceptance of the parents, feel the guilt of letting them down," she reveals. "Maybe with a ministry like Encourage, parents who are keen to find out how to cope with children with same-sex attraction have somewhere to approach."

A related ministry, Priests with Courage, has been set up too. It is a network of priests committed to minister to persons struggling with homosexuality with the love of Christ and the full teachings of the Catholic Church, especially in the area of chastity.

Dr John Hui, Immediate Past Master of the Catholic Medical Guild, is in full support of Courage as a ministry that is "solidly based on church teachings and have been faithful to the truth and love of the human person, in this case, the one with same-sex attraction".

He hopes to see such an apostolate take root in the Singapore archdiocese. "It's the least we can do for those who have same-sex attraction and yet yearn to live chaste lives," he says. "But this initiative will need the support of people at all levels, that is, from all of us in the archdiocese."

Until there is a Courage Chapter in the Singapore Archdiocese, Singaporean Catholics can log on to Courage's website http://couragerc.net/ for information on Courage, Encourage and Priests with Courage, on church teaching or to receive compassionate and practical advice on how to put church teaching on chastity into practice.

(*Name has been changed.)